Francisco Cervelli, the fist-pumping, maniacally enthusiastic backup catcher of the New York Yankees, became a local folk hero in the month of May. He drove in one two-out run after another, and set a career high with five RBIs on May 8. He also peaked on that day, with a .429 average, .500 OBP and .a 500 slugging percentage. Even though the second week of the month was just getting underway, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg named May Francisco Cervelli Month. The Yankee catcher was given a Crazy Eddie's gift certificate that was recently found on the locker room floor at the Garden. On May 23, the Yankees found themselves six games out of first place, which was the farthest they would fall behind all season. But they ended the month with a respectable 31-20 record and only two-and-a-half out of first.
Their crosstown counterparts had their usual roller-coaster month. But the New York Mets featured a folk hero of their own, when the incredible R.A. Dickey debuted on May 19. He lost that game to Washington, but won his next six games, and was eventually elected President of the United States. The Mets hit their first rock bottom when they were swept in a four-game series by Florida, but later in May, they took two of three from the Bombers and followed that up by not only sweeping the Phillies but shutting them out in all three games as well. What could possibly go wrong for the Mets?
In basketball news, Mikhail Prokhorov was approved by the NBA as the new owner of the New Jersey Nets. It was discovered only then that the Nets hadn't actually had an owner since 1984. No one's sure how that slipped through the cracks.
Avery Johnson and John MacLean were hired as coaches of the Nets and New Jersey Devils, respectively, but the story of June is the Yankees' and Mets' two young aces in the making, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey. They faced off against each other on June 19, with both pitchers coming into the game with identical 9-1 records. Not since opening day of 1904, when Giant Christy Mathewson dueled Oscar Jones of the Dodgers has there been a more anticipated matchup of two promising New York hurlers. And Tim McCarver and Joe Buck were there to broadcast both games. Mathewson won his, and Hughes came out on top against Pelfrey to earn his 10th win in 11 decisions. The Yankees beat the Mets two out of three in the second Subway Series, and ended the month in first place, where they would stay (except for one game in August) until mid-September. The Mets caught fire in June, going 18-8, including an eight-winning steak. On June 27th, they were a season-high 11 games above .500, and David Wright was named the National League Player of the Month. What could possibly go wrong for the Mets?
With the month of July came LeBron James' The Decision. He spurned the New York Knicks to go play for the Miami Heat. His TV special, though, became the highest-rated summer special since Donny and Marie Sing Songs With Telly Savalas and Huggy Bear From Starsky & Hutch on the Love Boat . . . Oh and Scott Baio and Some of the Women From Good Times, Too (But Not Esther Rolle) back in 1978. The Knicks signed Amar'e Stoudemire to a five-year $99.7 million contract, and they also picked up Raymond Felton. "We'll start out a little slow, but then Felton and I will form a great duo and we'll go on a big winning streak in November and December. I'll score 31 points and grab 16 rebounds in a win on December 5th, and Felton will hit a game-winning three-pointer against Toronto on December 8th. You'll see," Stoudemire predicted on the day of his press conference. Alexander Frolov signed with the New York Rangers, but his ESPN special, Da, I Choose . . . How You Say? . . . Rangers was a ratings disaster. The Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk agreed to a 17-year $102 million contract but it was rejected by the NHL on the grounds that it's "just completely insane."
Eight days after celebrating his 80th birthday, George Steinbrenner passed away. Known as much for firing managers as he was for winning and spending money, he once accidentally fired himself in the late-1980s. He cleared out his office and as he was hailing a cab, he said to himself, "Hey, what the hell am I doing?" He marched back upstairs, told his secretary that he was "back from his walk" and fired Billy Martin one last time just for kicks. Another new Yankee Stadium had to quickly be built as his monument couldn't fit in the one that just opened the previous year. On the field, the Yanks went 19-7 to remain atop the AL East. CC Sabathia won his ninth straight game, against Kansas City, before finally losing in his next start, to Cleveland. The team picked up Kerry Wood, Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns at the trade deadline. Wood would be a savior for the Bombers' bullpen. And after he lost another game, this time to Tampa Bay, A.J. Burnett punched a locker room door, injuring his hand. The Yankees released a statement: "A.J. Burnett? We've never heard of him. Why don't you check with the Mets."
It took three months, but the Mets finally went into a tailspin. Angel Pagan did all he could to help the team with a July OPS of .996, but it wasn't not enough as the Mets finished the month with a record of 9-17. They lost six out 10 before the All-Star break, and afterward, with the return of Beltran, they had a disastrous West Coast road trip. Everyone blamed Beltran (.204, no home runs and five RBIs for the month) for disrupting the clubhouse chemistry, sending the team into their doldrums. He's also blamed for James choosing Miami over New York and Cleveland, and there are whispers that he produced Frolov's failed TV special. Beltran blamed the Mets' downfall on Brian McRae. The Mets ended the month in Los Angeles, where Jason Bay suffered a concussion. Team doctors blamed Carlos Beltran.
The Yankees went 16-13 in August, and as a social experiment they let Javier Vazquez pitch in six games to gage how their fans react. The team earned a B+ from their Psych professor on the project. Alex Rodriguez batted .226 in August and missed the last two weeks of the month when the team allowed him to go on his honeymoon, after a whirlwind romance with himself. "I've made myself the happiest guy in the world," he gushed. Derek Jeter started to show his age, and hit a lowly .239 in August. But he refused to fall in love with himself. "Everybody else is already in love with me, so why should I bother?" he stated.
The Mets opened the month by taking a 14-1 beating at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They went 12-16 in August, but no one was really paying attention anymore. After putting up OPSs of .474 in June and .430 in July, Rod Barajas was shipped off to the Dodgers. "It's been a lifelong dream of mine to be traded from the Mets," he said. Jeff Francoeur tried to attract attention away from his .662 August OPS with his brilliant, dazzling smile, but it didn't work as he was traded to Texas. He took his punishment like a man and suffered all the way to the World Series.
On August 16, the New York Giants and New York Jets christened the New Meadowlands with a preseason game. The Giants won by a score of 31-16, but the brash, confident Jets declared themselves the winner, because "we said so." During the game, well-known Jet fan Fireman Ed got into a tussle with little-known Giant fan Stock Clerk Gary. Litigation was threatened, but by the time Victor Cruz scored his third touchdown of the game everyone in the stadium was too drunk to even remember which teams were playing anymore. A few days earlier, the Jets debuted on HBO's Hard Knocks. The highlight of the series was Antonio Cromartie trying to name all six Brady kids. He recalled five of them but stumbled when it came to remembering Cindy.